Steady progress in boosting female economic empowerment but gender pay gap still a major issue

Prize of pay parity in OECD could mean US$2 trillion increase in total female earnings, says PwC 

Slow but steady progress continues to be made in OECD countries towards greater female economic empowerment, according to a new PwC report. 

But the gender pay gap continues to be a major issue, with the average working woman in the OECD still earning 16% less than her male counterpart – despite becoming better qualified. 

The latest PwC Women in Work Index, which measures levels of female economic empowerment across 33 OECD countries based on five key indicators, shows that the Nordic countries – particularly Iceland, Sweden and Norway – continue to occupy the top positions on the Index. Poland stands out for achieving the largest annual improvement, rising from 12th to 9th. This is due to a fall in female unemployment and an increase in the full-time employment rate. 

Additionally, PwC analysis shows that there are significant economic benefits in the long term from increasing the female employment rate to match that of Sweden; the GDP gains across the OECD could be around US$6 trillion. 

When it comes to closing the gender pay gap, countries such as Poland, Luxembourg and Belgium could see the gap fully close within two decades if historical trends continue. But much slower historical progress in Germany and Spain means that their gap might not close for more than two centuries, although making this a policy priority could accelerate progress. The gains from achieving pay parity in the OECD are substantial – it could result in a potential boost in female earnings of around US$2 trillion at today’s values.

Yong Jing Teow, PwC economist and co-author of the report, says: “There is much more that businesses and governments could do to address the causes of the gender pay gap, which are deep rooted. Policy levers that improve access to affordable childcare and shared parental leave have been shown to get more women in quality work.“Businesses can also make flexible opportunities more widely available, enabling their employees to manage their family commitments around work.”